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DOES YOUR AGING PARENT HAVE A 'FILE OF LIFE'?

Matrix Home Care Encourages Every Senior to Prepare This Key Document

WEST PALM BEACH - A "File of Life" is a portable medical history and vitally important for seniors to have readily available in case of an emergency. This document, usually affixed to the refrigerator, enables emergency personnel to obtain a quick medical history when a patient is unable to give one. "When a senior citizen is rushed to the emergency room, the emergency physician on duty needs to know about any medications and dosages, allergies or chronic conditions. That's one of the reasons why seniors should have a File of Life containing their complete medical history," according to Janice Williams, CLTC, vice president, Matrix Home Care, (www.matrixhomecare.com) a statewide service provider.

"An elderly person who has been dazed by a fall, suffered a stroke or is unconscious won't be able to communicate with the ER physician," said Williams. "Without a File of Life, valuable time can be lost, and mistakes can occur."

In fact, Williams believes that any aging Floridian who is living alone should have a File of Life and share that information and copies with other family members. "If you change physicians, medications or have had a recent surgery for instance, the most important medical information is easily accessible," she said.

Available free of charge from many local fire-rescue, police and senior service agencies - or at a modest cost from retail and online pharmacies - a file of life is a magnetized pouch designed to be posted on a refrigerator. Documents inside the pouch include the person's name and insurance policy numbers, emergency medical contact, and a list of health problems, medications, allergies and other relevant medical information. Documents that could also be included are a person's health care surrogate and a DNR (do not resuscitate) form. These forms can be prepared by your family attorney.

"When paramedics arrive in an emergency, they can quickly see the pouch on the refrigerator and bring it with them to the hospital," Williams said. "It's also important to be sure that other family members have a copy of that information as an added safety measure."

As an example, Williams cites the case of an 83-year-old woman who fell and broke her hip in her home. She had not prepared a File of Life or chosen and completed a healthcare surrogate form. As she sat in her hospital room, her six children could not agree on which skilled rehabilitation facility she should be sent to for her rehabilitation and if she should receive private duty care. This situation is at times the norm with many families," Williams said. "That's why making your wishes known and having the correct documentation completed in advance is important."

Pernille Ostberg, MBA, RPh, Matrix president and CEO, has seen greater awareness of the need for a File of Life in recent years. "People need to realize that the Emergency Room won't be able to reach the family doctor at 2 a.m. on a Sunday night," she said. "And, your loved ones medical file will be in the physician's office not the ER. Having the necessary medical documentation available in an emergency can literally be a matter of life or death."

As difficult as the subject may be, it is an important conversation to have with your loved one.

About Matrix

Based in West Palm Beach, Matrix provides a complete array of services, home health care, disability management so injured employees can quickly return to work, independent senior care based on the needs of the elderly and specialty nurses' services, including wound care, infusion therapy and rehabilitation nursing. Certified as a woman minority owned business, Matrix serves Southwest and Southeast Florida from locations in Tampa, Jupiter, Bradenton, Venice, Boca Raton, Pompano Beach and Coral Gables.

For more information, www.matrixhomecare.com.

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